Thursday, July 26, 2012

Building Character: Self-Control

 As a family, we are studying a character trait each week, and are beginning with the Fruits of the Spirit.  This week we are finishing up the Fruits of the Spirit, but you can go back and read Love, Joyfulness, Peaceable, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness and Gentleness.  If you want more information on the nuts and bolts of what we are doing, you can read how to get started on this post.

This week we are talking about one our greatest challenges - having SELF-CONTROL.

I find this very interesting:  In Titus 2, Paul gives lists of things Titus needs to teach to different groups of people.  We are probably all very familiar with the list of 8 things older women are to teach younger women in verses 4 and 5 and one of those things is self-control.  Older men are given a list of six things, one of which is self-control.  Older women are given a list of four things and are the only ones not urged to work on their self-control.  And the young men are given only one exhortation:  "Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled."

My husband says this is because working on self-control is a full-time job for a young man.  He also said that we could spend an entire month JUST talking about self-control if I felt it would be helpful for our two boys.  We talk about self-control many times a day in our house, so this week's lesson will be a helpful focus, but the practice of it will likely continue for my sons for a lifetime.

SELF-CONTROL   vs. self-will
Ruling over my spirit; bringing my heart and actions into line with God's will.

Proverbs 22:28 - "A man without self-control is like a city broken down, without walls."

Self-control is really one of those blanket character traits.  When we have it, we are able to restrain all of those bad character qualities such as anger, selfishness, lust, self-pity, meanness, fearfulness, covetousness, etc...   By ruling over our spirits, we are able to will ourselves to take on the Fruits of the Spirit.  And for most of us, developing self-control will take a lifetime.  We start out as babies, totally unable to rule over our spirits.  If a baby is hungry and tired, they are going to fuss and cry, and at that age, it is to be expected.  But when a four year old is hungry and tired, we expect a little more self-control.  We expect that child in just a few years to learn to wait just a little bit longer and to do it without ugly meltdowns.  We also expect a four year old to learn that the needs of others come before his own.  When told no, he ought to have enough rule over his spirit not to have a tantrum about it.

WARNING:  Controversial parenting advice below!!!  
We are not "time out people" in the traditional sense.  It is because I feel very strongly that there is a bigger picture.  I do not believe just sending a child off by himself to throw his fit is an effective way to teach self-control.  Starting with toddlers, I will sit the melting down child in my lap and gently restrain, urging with a calm voice, "Get some self-control" until he yields.  If the fit only escalates and there is further rebellion, we use negative consequences*.  Our four year old now has enough rule over his spirit from all of that practice on my lap, that he can be told to sit by himself and "Get some self-control" and have it in a few minutes, though sometimes we still need those negative consequences*.  This way there is no intrinsic reward for throwing a fit.  And I think sometimes we don't realize that being allowed to throw crying, kicking tantrums without restraint is rewarding self-will.  Of course, you need to look at your individual children and your family to determine what will work for you, but that is how I begin teaching self-control at a very young age.

I really believe starting young with self-control is important, because if you choose to just "ride out" the toddler tantrum years, your child will eventually learn that throwing kicking screaming fits is socially unacceptable and they will stop.  But they will start to practice the subtle, more dangerous forms of self-will including sulking and emotional manipulation.  I think we all know adults that have little more self-control than a child and it is not a pretty thing.  Those people struggle in their marriages, in the workplace, and with friends.  Yes, it is much happier for our children if they begin practicing self-control while they are young.

*Negative consequences:  Proverbs 22:15, Proverbs 29:15
End of controversial parenting advice.

Now preaching to the parents:
How is your self-control?  Kids will test it and challenge it more than anything.  Do you "lose it" from time to time with them?  I'm going to say two things that I want you to take to heart.  Let these words rattle around in your head when you are called upon to discipline your child and hopefully they will help you maintain self-control in that tough moment -

1.  Never, never, never spank in anger.

2.  Training your children is a time where there is no place for anger.  NO PLACE! 

As I say to my son, "Put all of that anger out of your heart."  Rule over your spirit and get control of yourself before you lose it with your kids.  Because if you regularly lose your temper with them, you will lose their hearts.  You can't just teach about self-control, you have to live it.  I cannot stress enough how important this is.

Ok, I'll stop preaching now and get on with our Bible story.  I hope we can still be friends.  :)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This week's Bible story:  Luke 4:1-13
Satan Tempts Jesus

For forty days, Jesus endured intense temptation in the wilderness.  He was alone and he was fasting.  Even in his weak physical state, he endured every temptation Satan sent His way without giving in.  I read the entire account out loud, but since the first temptation is by far the easiest for young children to understand, I dwelt upon Satan tempting Jesus to turn the stones into bread more than the others.  Sometimes there is a misconception that Jesus endured these forty days of temptation and then Satan left Him alone, but verse 13 says, "Now when the devil ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time."  Even Jesus was plagued by the devil all of His life on earth.  And we can see that Satan looks for our weakest moments.  We can't let down our guard!

  • How do you feel just before lunch time?  What if you felt hungry like that for a whole day with no food or snacks?  That is the way Jesus felt for forty days, and that is longer than a month!  Jesus wasn't just hungry the way you feel before lunch, He was weak and sick with hunger.  How much do you think He wanted that bread?  And yet He had the self-control to tell Satan, "No!"  
  • How does Jesus answer Satan each time?  (With scripture!  He knows the power of God's words!  We can use God's words to help us have the self-control we need.)
  • If a man without self-control is like a city with broken down walls, what is a man that HAS self-control like?  (A strong city)  Will Satan be able to get in to that man's city?  
  • We need to have a strong mind in order to have self-control.  We need to be able to do the hard things and make ourselves stop before we do bad things, and instead, do the good things.  Jesus was able to rule over His spirit and we need to work very, very hard so we can do the same.  
  • Role play some scenarios that you know would tempt your child's ability to have self-control.  Urge your child to be a "strong city with strong walls" and have them come up with positive and self-controlled reactions to tempting situations.
  • My son asked about Samson and if he was a person that had self-control because he was so strong.  We took a little tangent discussing how Samson was physically strong, but weak when it came to self-control.  His dying act of bringing down the pagan temple with his own strength is a good illustration of those broken down walls that come from a lack of self-control.  
  • Discuss that the work of learning self-control will be their job for the rest of their lives. 
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Spiritual Food for Moms Part 1

When you become a mother, you go through a massive transformation.  The physical changes are obvious, but there is just as much change going on in your mind and in your life.  It is a test of your spiritual strength and because so much in your life has changed, you will need to find new ways to feed your soul the spiritual nourishment it needs.  It's ok if it takes you a while to get on your feet.  I'll be honest, it took me 2 1/2 years (mostly because it took me that long to see the problem).  Keep trying.  Seek and you shall find.  And I hope that what I write here will be an encouragement to you to diligently seek out a rich and fulfilling relationship with God even when your body, time, and strength are in demand like never before.

Part 1 - At Home
In part two, I plan to cover getting spiritual food while assembling with Christians, but if you have been overly dependent upon feeding your soul in the assembly and have not been using your time at home, then you may start feeling as dry as a desert in a short time.  This is a time in your life, where you will need to get most of your sustenance on your own at home.  Try to look at it as an opportunity to build your faith in a new and necessary way.

     1.  Make peace with interruptions. 
This was one of the hardest things for me to learn.  As a mother, your life will have constant interruption.  The more you cling to a certain time as being "my time", the more you will just get angry and frustrated when you are interrupted and cultivating this anger in your heart will only eat away at your soul and the relationships you have with the people you love the most.  Just accept that your life will be interrupted now.  You can get good nutrition by eating small frequent meals throughout the day, so learn to look at your spiritual life the same way.  Instead of depending on a feast of an hour of quiet time to read and pray, feed your soul throughout the day in small doses.  This way when the baby needs holding all day because of a growth spurt or teething or just because it is a baby and that is what they do, you won't feel spiritually starved and irritable because the baby interrupted your plans.  And when you do get an hour of uninterrupted time, you can TAKE A NAP!  (And don't feel guilty for taking that nap!  God knows you need sleep!)
     2.  Develop your prayer life.
Prayer is the way that we communicate with our Lord and at this time in your life, you need God's guidance and wisdom more than ever.  Prayer is a good indicator of where we are spiritually.  If you are feeling spiritually low, chances are you have not been in the habit of praying and communing with God lately.  Pray all the time in snippets if that is all you get.  Start the day with prayer.  Pray while you are washing dishes, nursing your baby, rocking your baby to sleep... pray all day long!

I have seen my faith grow in leaps and bounds just by doing two things with the way I pray.  First, I am no longer afraid to make bold requests.  Ask big and God will move mountains!  Second, make your requests very specific.  No detail is too insignificant for God.  Are you stressed about needing some more time with your husband?  Figuring out why your baby seems to be crying in pain?  Wondering how you are going to keep praying when you are so scatterbrained and exhausted?  Pray about those specific things.  Do what you can on your end, but then turn it over to God and watch Him work in your life.  And then thank Him for how He does it.  

     3.  Stay connected with the Word  -
If prayer is the way you talk to God, His Word is the main way He talks to you.  You need His voice in your heart now more than ever, and yet, sitting down and reading your Bible seems so impossible sometimes.  You might have to get creative, but you can find a way!  My life changed for the better when I discovered the ESV Bible online has a "Listen" function.   I set up my laptop so I can listen to a chapter at a time.  I don't have any of these other devices, but I know moms that have the Bible on CD or on their iPad or reader.  Even if you don't have these things, you can print out or photocopy chapters of the Bible at a time.  I recommend writing verses on notecards and putting them around the house - this is great for memory work and meditation.  Think small bites throughout the day.  You may not feel like you have the brain power to tackle Romans or Isaiah right now, but you can benefit tremendously by reading Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Proverbs, a gospel, or a short epistle.  For a while, I worked on reading Psalm 119 every day.  Reading about David's love for God's law was rich food for my soul.  Pick something small to read, and read it over and over again.

I do not remember where I read this, but one mom used her child's interruptions while she was reading to help them grow to love God's word.  When a child came to her while she was reading, she would invite the child to sit with her and she would read aloud and talk about what she was reading with them.  When they got antsy, they wriggled away.  Let the words of God work in your soul AND your child. 

     4.  Teach your children and grow with them.
I do not mean that you need to sign up to teach your child's Bible class at church.  I mean, teach your children at home!   Even if you have an infant, talk to your baby about who God is and all of the great things He has done.  Go for a walk or just a simple backyard explore and show your tiny baby the marvelous things God created - trees, flowers, grass, sunshine, wind...  Read Bible stories to them from the Bible.  Read the Psalms and Proverbs to them.  You have been given the task of teaching your child to know and love God.  You will not have a better opportunity to teach a soul the gospel than you do with the children that you love and nurture from their first day of life.  Talk to your baby and more than anything, talk to your baby about God.  This is ultimately for the child's benefit, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised how much it helps you grow.

     5.  Sing hymns.
Colossians 3:16 - "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Don't be self-conscious.  Sing!  Your baby doesn't care what you sound like.  He will be soothed hearing your voice and how much better if it is a song for the Lord?  Sing your favorite hymns, make up your own, sing while you give the baby a bath, or while your rock your baby to sleep.  If you need to print out some lyrics, do, but don't worry about perfection, just sing!  Sing with thankfulness to the Lord and use this time to worship Him.  An older mother once encouraged me with the words, "You are doing holy work".  Every mother is doing holy work and singing helps me find joy in the work. 

I hope this has been an encouragement to you.  I really, really know how hard this can be.  Don't let the burden of guilt immobilize you, just what you can do and each day try to do a little better.  Pray to the Lord for strength and wisdom.  He can give you a spiritual feast in a time that was once famine.  Ask and it shall be given...
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Friday, July 20, 2012

Potty Training

 Please pray for us.

 Pray that I will keep the faith!

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." -  Hebrews 11:1

This child will use the toilet independently before he leaves home.  He will.  

His older brother is finally there, and I thought he never would either.

And this is meant for laughs, but still...
Pray for us!!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Broiled Fish: Easier than you think!

Today we are going to learn how to use one of these:
This funny looking pan that came in the bottom of your oven is a broiler pan.  I'm amazed by how few people know what it is and how to use it.  If you know all about it already, then give yourself a gold star.  If not, keep reading.

Broiled fish is a very, very quick way to fix dinner.  It's also a bit of a treat for us when we find wild caught fish on sale.  This recipe and technique will work with any firm white fish filet like red snapper, haddock, tilapia, and my personal favorite, cod.

You will need:
  • 2-4 fish filets (1 1/2-2 lbs. total)
  • 6 Tbs. melted butter (divided)
  • 1 Tbs. flour
  • paprika
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Coat your broiler pan with non stick spray or just brush it with butter (that is what I do).  Place your fish filets right on top.  Brush the tops of your fish with 3 Tbs. butter, dust with flour, and sprinkle with a bit of paprika.

Move one of your oven racks up to the top or next to the top - about 6 inches or so from the heating element.  Like this:

Turn your oven to the BROIL setting.  (Broiling means that only the top element will heat up, and it will automatically go on the highest heat.)

Pop your fish in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes.  The fish should just begin browning in that time.

Meanwhile, gather the rest of your ingredients:

I use a coffee mug for the rest of the melted butter and just mix the lemon juice, parsley, and Worcestershire right in with my basting brush.  After the five minutes are up, your fish will look something like this:
Use your basting brush to spread the buttery goodness over the fish while you pour it as evenly as possible.  Broil for another 5 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  It should look something like this:

This is the kind of food that nourishes your body and soul.  Mmmmmmm...
And the Littles loved it too.  Which is good because while they have no choice in the matter, they must eat what they are served, it is still nice for me when they truly enjoy dinner too.
Also nice with a green salad.  I just like to eat my salads last.  You know, I find that varies between cultures.  Do you like to eat salad before your meal or after?

PS - As soon as you are able, throw that icky pan into a sink full of soapy water and it will be MUCH easier to clean!  Trust me, you don't want to leave it sitting around.  Especially with the fishy/Worcestershire-y smell.  :P
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homemade Vanilla

Why am I writing about making homemade vanilla in July?  Because if you want some amazing homemade vanilla ready for your holiday baking, you really need to start it now!

This has been one of our easiest and most successful ventures for gift-giving.  I highly recommend giving it a try.  I was amazed by the reactions, "YOU MADE THIS!?!?"  No one ever guessed how easy it was!

You just need two things:
* Vanilla beans
* Vodka  (or bourbon, but I really prefer the vodka and it is cheaper)

On the beans:
I made the vanilla in bulk because we were planning on giving it as a gift.  You can pay an outrageous price for vanilla beans at the grocery store, or you can order cheap, extract grade beans on e-bay.  I recommend the latter.  I had a wonderful experience with this seller, and the beans were just perfect for this use.  (Extract grade beans are just not "perfect looking" or are too short for regular sale.  The vanilla flavor is just as potent!)  I bought a 1/2 pound of beans that cost me less than $20 with shipping.   

On the vodka:
This was the most difficult part of the entire project for me... bringing myself to go into a liquor store!  Once I finally mustered the courage and lectured my children within an inch of their lives that they were not allowed to touch ANYTHING, I went in, found the nearest store employee and said, "I'm making vanilla extract and I need to buy a gallon of vodka."  The look she gave me was hilarious.  She said, "Weeeeell, it doesn't come in gallons, but I can show you what we have."  :)  So she pointed out the bottles you can see just below:  Cheap vodka in glass bottles so I can keep using the bottles for extract.  I bought two 1.75 liter bottles and they cost me $20 each.

Then came the easy part!  I poured out just a little bit of vodka... just enough to make some penne vodka, which ended up tasting pretty nasty.  Then I divided up the beans between the bottles.  Set it on a shelf in a cool dark room and let it sit for a few months.  (3 is the minimum for some good strong stuff.)  THAT IS IT!

Some instructions will tell you to cut up the beans, but you really don't need to do that.  Ina Garten (the “Barefoot Contessa”), makes her own vanilla, and doesn’t scrape her beans.  She leaves them whole to marinate, and once the vanilla is ready, she can scrape out the beans as desired to use for baking so they serve double duty.  I haven't done this yet myself. She also just refills her bottle with vodka as she uses it.  I keep a small bottle of my extract in my baking cabinet, and the large one in cool, dark storage.  When I need to refill my vodka, I can just buy some cheap vodka in a plastic jug to refill it and that only costs me about $14.  Maybe my beans will need replacing some time down the road, but they are still going strong for now.

For gift giving, we ordered a case of these glass bottles from Amazon.  With shipping, it came out to about another $20 for a dozen.

Now for some math:
$20 for the beans + $40 for the vodka + $40 for the glass bottles = $100 for 24 bottles of vanilla.
This equals $4.16 for each 4 oz. bottle of vanilla extract.  If you made a second round, the cost would go down as you would save the $20 for the beans and about $12 on the vodka, so each bottle would only cost you about $2.66 for a 4 oz. bottle. 

So we're talking about a pretty big upfront investment here, and I get that.  You can definitely do this project on a smaller scale, but it is surprisingly easy to find this many people that can use a nice gift of vanilla extract.  Think holiday gifts for friends, co-workers, family and neighbors, wedding gifts, housewarming gifts, thank-yous to the friends that let us stay in their home...  We only bought a dozen jars the first time and they went quickly.

And now for a funny, courtesy of Preacher Man...
In our old house, we kept the vanilla on my canning shelves in the basement.  The basement is also where our washer/dryer were located.  Preacher Man used to tease me endlessly about needing to go to the basement so often.  He would wink at me and say, "doing laundry, eh?  Are you sure you aren't taste testing the vanilla again?"  :P  

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Building Character: Gentleness

 As a family, we are studying a character trait each week, and are beginning with the Fruits of the Spirit. We are just getting started, so up until now, we have talked about Love, Joyfulness, Peaceable, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and Faithfulness.  If you want more information on the nuts and bolts of what we are doing, you can read how to get started on this post.

As we strive to put on Christ and imitate His character, we take up the challenge of adopting a spirit of GENTLENESS.

Matthew 11:28 - 30 -

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

GENTLENESS vs. Harshness
Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others.

Philippians 4:5 - "Let your gentleness be known to all men."

This definition gave me pause.  It isn't the definition that first came to my mind, but the more I looked into it, the more I came to agree with it.  According to, the first definition of gentleness was "kindly".  When I looked up the Greek word used in the fruits of the spirit, I noticed that the same word was more often translated "kindness".  Gentleness is usually considered to be a feminine trait, and indeed, I'm sure it comes more naturally for most females, but it should be encouraged in our young men too.  Both Jesus and the apostles were described as gentle, and Paul admonishes Timothy that, "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition"(2 Timothy 2:24-25)

What a challenge we have on our hands to teach our children to have the strength of the Lord, and to speak out with boldness, but yet to be clothed in humility and to speak with kindness and gentleness.

I first taught my boys about gentleness when they were infants.  Instead of roughly grabbing at an animal's fur, I showed them how to softly stroke and animal speaking to them in low tones, "gentle, gentle".  When they are around an infant, I encourage gentleness - speaking and singing gently and softly holding the baby's hand (if her mama says it is alright!).  These things do not come naturally to my boys.

Gentle speech does not come always naturally either.  They imitate what they hear from their father and I which is usually gentle, but when the monster of selfishness takes over their hearts or anger overcomes them, the harsh words and actions come out.  We remind them of this verse:

Proverbs 15:1 - "A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger."

This week's Bible story:  Luke 10:25-37
The parable of the Good Samaritan.
So often, we skip right to the story, but I think we can find great insight for parenting in Jesus' gentle dialogue with the lawyer that was questioning him.  Jesus answer's his question with a question, gently leading the lawyer towards the correct answer.  Even when the lawyer continued to question, Jesus answered him with patience, leading him to the Truth like the Good Shepherd that He is.

When the lawyer asked, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus told him that correct answer was:
  • "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind" 
  • "You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Let us encourage our children to remember these two commandments.  If we do these, then we will be His faithful disciples.

When the lawyer further questions Jesus, asking, "Who is my neighbor?"  Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Emphasize the personal, loving care and concern the Samaritan showed to the man who had been robbed and beaten.
  • When he saw him, he had compassion
  • He went to him and cleaned and bandaged his wounds
  • He set him on his own donkey (meaning that he now walked beside)
  • He brought him to an inn where he personally took care of him
  • He payed for the man's stay at the end from his own money
Jesus says that THIS is what it means to love our neighbor and that we must do likewise.  Humbling isn't it?  "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

Do you, like me, feel the sting of some of those times that you failed to show love to a neighbor?  Maybe I seem so very holy by the things that I write on my blog, but I'm not.  I fail.  I try, but I fail just like everyone else.  One time stands out to me so, so strongly.  I was getting my children out of the car to go grocery shopping when a woman came to me in the parking lot and said her car had broken down and she asked if she could borrow a cell phone.  My immediate answer was that no, I didn't have one.  Because I hadn't had one up until a few weeks before and I forgot I had one now.  And then I remembered that I did have one, but that it is my emergencies only phone where I pay by the minute and I said, "No, not really."  And she walked away.  And I felt terrible because I remembered that for years, I, myself had been living without a cell phone with an unreliable car.  It could have so easily been me, stranded in a parking lot having to beg for the use of a phone.  And what would I have wished someone would have done for me?

Well, the story doesn't end there.  The woman asked another lady across the parking lot that was now loading groceries in the back of her car.  The kindly woman said, "Oh of course, here you go."  And she handed over her phone while she finished unloading her cart.  By this time, I had unbuckled my children and was heading to the store.  Since it was Aldi, we had a quarter ready to put in so we could borrow a cart.  As I passed by, the woman that lent the cell phone called out to me and said, "Here, take my cart."  I said, "Oh, I'm really alright, I have a quarter."  She said, "I want you to have it," and wished me a good day with a smile.  I felt those burning coals of fire on my head.  (And I know she hadn't meant them that way!)  I felt so very small as I did my shopping that day.

Who had been the Good Samaritan?  Not me!  I was the one professing to serve God like the priest and the Levite, but hardened my heart when asked to share with a person in need.  I don't know why my initial reaction was so closed and selfish.  Fear?  Probably.  I think it revealed a lot about my heart.  I know I have learned my lesson though.  I'm sure God will provide another test for me someday.  I pray that I have enough love in my heart to share with my neighbor by then.

  • Who is your neighbor? 
  • What sort of things can we do to help a person in need?
  • With children, I think we need to also emphasize that if they see a child in need that they can help, they should do it.  But if they see an adult that needs help, they should get mama or daddy to help them help.  You just can't be too careful when it comes to safety and your children.
  • When you are in a conflict with someone, what can you do to be a peacemaker?  (Use gentleness - both words and actions!)
  • It would be helpful to role-play some situations for this.  In our house, the perpetual problem is both children wanting the same toy.  Over and over again, we talk them through whether the toy can be shared, traded, or if the two can take turns.  I'm hoping all of this practice with one another will help them handle other playmates someday!

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Water Play for Summer

I'm all about simple fun for the summer.  We don't have a pool or a slip & slide, but we have our own kind of fun with water!

Watering the flowers is one of the most anticipated events of the day.  It keeps them occupied for about 20 minutes.  Which for my children is AMAZING!
Playing with string is another favorite.
But the most favorite activity for summer evenings is the Water Wall!

Basically, it is a bunch of tubing, funnels, cups, old bottles, tubs, etc... set up for water play.  Soap bubbles are optional.  We got the fancy little water wheel at a yard sale for $.50.  Preacher Man changes it up from time to time.  This is so fascinating to them!  I got this idea from The Common Room

What kinds of water play do your kids enjoy in the summer?

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Homemade Kitchen Scrubbie

Making something useful out of something you were going to throw away so you don't have to buy that thing you needed...

It's a dish scrubbie made out of those mesh plastic-y bags that onions, lemons, and limes come in.  Instead of throwing them away, you neatly fold them up, stitch the edges, and you have something useful!

It isn't every day that I see a frugal idea like this.  I thought it was a fabulous idea, but I wanted to test it out before I showed it to all of you.

I originally saw the idea on Pinterest, but if you go over to Mooberry Farm Homesteading, Julie will show you how to make one.  For all my crafty interests, I've never done crochet, so here is my take on her idea:
Instead of crocheting the edge, I just did a blanket stitch around the edge with some embroidery floss (all 6 strands with a large-eyed needle).  I already had scraps of floss, and it takes so little, this is truly a "something for nothing" project.  I used the floss because I thought the 6 strands would make it stronger than regular thread.  I also put in an extra stitch in each corner for strength.  So far, it is holding up quite well, and mine is getting heavily used at the kitchen sink.  I think these would also be great for scrubbing the sink/bathtub.  They have a nice, gentle scrubbing quality, and they won't scratch.  When it starts to fall apart, just throw it away and you have lost nothing more than a bit of your time.

Speaking of time, all in all, I spent about 15 minutes sewing up the edge while watching my children play.  15 interrupted minutes.  Probably would have taken less than 10 without, but the nice thing is that you don't have to think very hard, you just do.  I like mindless handwork for that reason.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Building Character: Faithful

As a family, we are studying a character trait each week, and are beginning with the Fruits of the Spirit. We are just getting started, so up until now, we have talked about Love, Joyfulness, Peaceable, Patience, Kindness, and Goodness.  If you want more information on the nuts and bolts of what we are doing, you can read how to get started on this post.


This week's character quality is Faithfulness.  Not so much having faith, but being faithful, which is more akin to loyalty.  We'll do faith later on.  :)  Read with me this beautiful verse about our amazing God:
"Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the FAITHFUL God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments."  
- Deuteronomy 7:9
In studying these character traits, the ultimate goal is to become more like God.  
Ephesians 5:1 - "Be imitators of God, as beloved children."
The Bible tells us that God is faithful and we can read about how God demonstrates His faithfulness throughout the Bible.  He is faithful to us, and in turn, asks that we be faithful to Him.

FAITHFUL vs. unreliable
Acting with constant devotion and unwavering commitment to God and to those whom He has called me to serve.  

 Revelation 2:10 - "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

This week's Bible Story:
There is a reason why Abraham is so often called, "Father of the Faithful".  He was a man of remarkable faith and Hebrews 11 highlights many of the ways Abraham showed himself to be faithful, or unwavering in his commitment to God.  I recommend reading verses 8-12 and doing a quick review of when God called Abraham to go to a new land that he had never seen, when he waited for God to fulfill the promises made to him, including the promise of Isaac, the son born of Sarah. 

The main story I used to illustrate Abraham's faith is when God told him to offer up his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.  Before coming back to read that part in Hebrews, we read the story in Genesis 22:1-18.  

On a personal note, this is one of the most difficult things God asked of any man in the Bible.  If I am honest about it, I cannot fathom being asked to do this, or comprehend God asking my husband to do this to my son.  When my children ask me, "Why?"  I have a difficult time answering.  I do not understand God's ways.  But this is what God did to test Abraham's faithfulness to him.  And because Abraham was unwavering in his commitment to obey the command of the Lord, God was faithful to him in return, and spared him from killing his son.  God provided on that mountain, just as Abraham had said He would. 

Hebrews 11:17-19 gives us some eye opening divine commentary on this story.  Verse 20 tells us that Abraham concluded that "God was able to raise him up, even from the dead."  As far as we know, no man or child had yet been raised from the dead by God, so there was not any previous situation that Abraham could use to help him make that conclusion.  But his faith was so great, he knew that if God promised his heritage would come through Isaac, and that if God, the creator of ALL, had been able to bring Isaac into being through a man and woman as good as dead (meaning deadness of the womb), then God could bring his son back to life.

Indeed, here Abraham demonstrates that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  (vs. 1)

  • While discussing the definition of being faithful, I used a couple of visual aids.  The first is by holding my two hands, palms together, moving them slowly and steadily forward as I read, "constant devotion and unwavering commitment".  I would look steadily at each child in turn as I said this.  Then I demonstrated the opposite idea by moving my hands together with more of a swimming motion, showing them what it looked like to waver.  I explained that worst of all, was to turn our back on God and move away from him, again demonstrating with my hands.  
  • My second visual aid was the drawing of the two hearts shown on our prayer board in the picture below.  We are doing some heart work lately as we are seeing a lot more whining and delayed obedience.  We talked about how the top heart is a pure heart devoted to the Lord, and while the bottom heart is mostly the Lord's, this heart has kept a little part of black.  It's just a little corner for selfishness, anger and ugliness, but that black part has been given to Satan.  That bottom heart is not a heart for the Lord.  Progress is slow, but I think it is working because the other night, one of them prayed, "God, help me to get rid of the bad parts of my heart..."  My eyes welled up thinking of his tender heart.   
  •  We used the heart illustration again when discussing the story of Abraham offering up Isaac.  We talked about how God tested Abraham to see if he was keeping a little black part for Satan, or if his whole heart was faithful to God.  Have the children identify which kind of heart Abraham had.
  • This "testing" is a challenging concept.  We talked about how God asks us to "Do hard things" and that those things will test our hearts.  God wants us to be faithful all the time - when things are easy and happy, and when things are hard and discouraging.  Remember God's promise - "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."  
  • Lastly, we really enjoy this song by David Pratte - God's Man, Faithful Abraham.  We've been singing it a lot this week.  Older children may enjoy singing Faith of our Fathers.
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Friday, July 6, 2012

Beep... Beep... Beep...

Does this look familiar?

I was amazed the first time I saw Big Littles do this.  He was barely more than a year old.  His little brother picked it up even earlier by observation.  Seems like some things are just innate in little boys and I am continually amazed by how God made them.

I mentioned how my boys would lay on the ground to drive their cars and tractors to my Dad and he said, "Oh yeah, of course!  It makes them look bigger that way!"  I really had no idea!

Did you know that days old infant boys stare longer at a slowly twirling mobile and infant girls stare longer at a person's smiling face?

"Male and female, He created them... and indeed it was very good"  
Genesis 1:27; 31

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Making a Tea Wreath

my new tea wreath
I wanted to share a simple project that can help you in your efforts to create a hospitable home.  I originally saw this idea on Pinterest, and immediately thought of making it for my mother-in-law.  It was a big hit, and it is in use nearly every Sunday when they have a home full of guests and tea drinkers.  It is a pretty way to display the teas you have available, and I find it helps guests feel more comfortable fixing a cuppa for themselves, especially if you leave some teacups nearby and a kettle ready on the stove.

There is a very helpful tutorial from kojo designs here that can walk you through the very simple process of making a wreath for yourself or for a gift.  
my MIL's tea wreath
This was a very fast project and required few materials.  You'll need some large pieces of cardboard, glue, hot glue, about 16 wooden clothespins, and some pretty paper.  You can hang it from a ribbon or just hang it by the hole in the middle. 

When I have babies that need lots of nursing and diaper changing, it is a challenge to be able to be able to meet all of the needs of my guests myself.  It's also a bigger challenge with a large group.  I like to have things out and available as much as possible and encourage my guests to help themselves to whatever they like, and having my teas on display helps in that way.

Thank you Pinterest

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Building Character: Goodness

As a family, we are studying a character trait each week, and are beginning with the Fruits of the Spirit. We are just getting started, so up until now, we have talked about Love, Joyfulness, Peaceable, Patience, and Kindness.  If you want more information on the nuts and bolts of what we are doing, you can read how to get started on this post.

This week's character quality is GOODNESS.  When one of the Littles becomes bent on "making trouble", we admonish with, "Do the good things" and "Do what is good and right".

Big Littles is full of questions.  I have heard the statistic that four-year-olds ask an average of 450 questions each day.  I would say this is a low estimate.  :)  Many Bible stories are about people who do not choose to "do the good things" but rather choose disobedience and evil.  Every time we read about someone that does not choose to do the good things, he asks, "WHY?  Why would they do that?" in such an earnest way.  The answers are complicated.  Why do people choose to disobey?  Why does he choose to disobey?  We talk about the nature of sin and temptation, but the main thing for him to understand is that everyone is given a choice to do good or to do evil.  Everyone that has walked on this earth, with the exception of Jesus, at some time has chosen to do evil.  (Romans 3:23)  God gives us a way to make things right again, but we need to constantly work on choosing to do what is good and right and work daily on seeking to do God's will.

GOODNESS vs. evil
Having a heart for the Lord and walking in His light.

Ephesians 5:8-9 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).

As a secondary verse, we use one we had memorized a few months ago:
Romans 12:9 - "Hate what is evil, Hold on to what is good."  
(This translation is the Good News Translation and is also used in the New Century Version.  I don't typically use these versions, but in this particular case, I wanted to find one that was very, very plain and easy for them to grasp.) 

This Week's Bible Story:  Genesis 5:22, 24 and Genesis 6:9
I wanted to emphasize that goodness is "walking in His light" so I chose the two men in the Bible who are named as men who "walked with God". 

Genesis 5:22, 24 - Enoch walked with God
Genesis 6:9 - Noah walked with God

I think it is interesting that Enoch was Noah's Great-Grandfather (the lineage being: Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah).

We also sang the song, "Enoch Walked With God" from Each Little Dewdrop.

  • It is interesting to speculate about how Enoch might have influenced Noah's faith in God.  We discussed our own heritage of faith and how valuable it was to have grandparents and great-grandparents walking in God's light to help teach us the way.  I know not everyone has this blessing, so if you don't, discuss with your children your determination to be a family that walks with God, teaching your children's children's children about the Lord.
  • Discuss what it means to "walk with God".  What do we know about how Enoch walked with God?  What do we know about how Noah walked with God?  
  • Drawing a simple visual of a path to heaven, with a stick man walking on that path is helpful in illustrating our walk as disciples of Christ.  Draw fiery darts and temptations along the path and point out that these are moments where the man must make a choice to do good or evil.  (We love the book "Little Pilgrim's Progress" by Helen Taylor.  We refer to the path traveled by "Little Christian" quite often!)
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